325 Tasting Notes

FrrrrrrrrUIT !!!

Dry leaf: overwhelming aromas of roasted peaches, apricots and figs.

Wet leaf: Even. More. Overwhelming. Aromas.

This is either going to be the best Yunnan I’ve had, or it is going to be so bold and sweet I’ll absolutely hate it. But, that will be a matter of my taste, not the quality of the tea. “Rare” grade, indeed.

1st ~ Aaannnd… mmmmmmm… Oh. Man. When I go through these long stretches of saving money buying tea at the market instead of ordering direct, I forget just HOW MUCH BETTER these teas are than what you can get from big retailers.

For all the boldness in the leaf this is a remarkably shy first steep. Cacao (not cocoa), fig and a mild finishing astringency which keeps the sweetness from becoming too cloying.

2nd ~ This is making me want to either re-locate my work computer into the kitchen next to the kettle, or move the kettle into the office next to my computer. I can’t keep my cup full long enough or refill it quickly enough.

This tea helps you understand why people started adding honey to lesser teas. The roasted fruit is mellowing into more like a buckwheat honey (if you have never had very dark amber, buckwheat honey, it will COMPLETELY change how you think about honey) and the balance of the fast sweetness and lingering dryness remains intact.

3rd ~ Already even softer. Perhaps the exchange for this amazing flavor profile is that the candle is burning at both ends and we may only get but a handful of steeps from the leaf.

All in all, a FANTASTIC leaf.

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Just went on my wish list.

Charles Thomas Draper

You have made me thirsty for this one


I ordered a sample of this with my last Upton order, and after I tried it, a full bag immediately went onto my shopping list! It’s a great one.

Jim Marks

I’m glad everyone is inspired. I may seriously order the 640 gram bag next time.

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I have to say, I think gongfu is far better suited to pu-erh than it is to a lot of other tea. On the whole I haven’t been super impressed with the increase in steeps compared to, shall we say, “leaf commitment” with most teas, but here I am on my third steep of this pu-erh that I made about 10 or 12 cups of yesterday — same leaves.

I was going to finally take the plunge on the wild arbor sheng today, but maybe I’ll hold off. After I milk this shu a bit longer, I’ll need to change up the flavor profile a bit more dramatically than that.

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I go a total of 6 or 7 steeps out of the da hong pao. I think I made one error early on that, when corrected next time will result in better cups, and more of them.

So, it has been quite a while since I have had this pu-erh.

And I have never done short steeps with this tea.

The dry leaf is richly loamy to the nose. The wet leaf is like a freshly plowed field (not fertilized ;-)

1st ~ The liqueur is actually amber in color and the flavor is much more “open” than what I would get in the past with much longer steeps. The profile itself is the same, just presented in a different manner.

2nd ~ This steep is already black as night and the brew is that heady, thick, earthy cave that surrounds you. Shu may be a cheap imitation to some people, but I will always love it for what it is, not what it is not. I can already feel my Yi awakening.

3rd ~ Off to the races. Complex, mellow, warming, a hint of sharpness lingers on the tongue after swallowing.

Lots more steeps to follow, clearly.

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“love it for what it is, not what it is not”, excellent words that should be applied to all kinds of tea.

Jim Marks

True. Although I think it is especially important with pu-erh. There are people who get so into the serious nature of the process of this tea that they can begin to think of shu as a pale shadow rather than simply letting it be shu. I don’t find very many similarities between the two and see it more as a mimicry of process than a mimicry of results in a cup, so I don’t quite understand the compulsion to degrade shu because it doesn’t taste like sheng.

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It is immediately apparent, upon opening this package that all the teas I have been drinking labeled “wuyi” are basically da hong pao clippings too many generations removed to be sold under that name. The dry leaf smells and looks the same. The wet leaf smells and looks the same. Black strap, new leather, and the skins of oven roasted potatoes.

Steeping double gaiwan style with a generous leaf ratio and a quick rinse to hydrate the leaves and heat the items (it has felt cold/drafty in the house prior to sun-up around here even though it isn’t really anything like “cold” out, Houston walls just aren’t that insulated).

1st ~ A very light brew. Amber honey color. Mostly getting the new leather with just a slight hint of that sweet molases and toasted/roasted aroma.

2nd ~ A bit darker, and a bit bolder. The three primary profile elements are more balanced in this cup. I am always amazed at the complete lack of fruit or floral notes in this tea while at the same time having nothing in the way of earthy tones (wet stone, loam) either. This tea manages to be all roast and sweetness.

3rd ~ Now the roast/toast is becoming most dominant.

I’ll keep up the infusions with this one today, but I definitely want to try this tea Western style as well.

I really need to get four yixing – one for shu, one for sheng, one for oolong and one for Yunnan gold. I suspect this tea would really shine in a well seasoned yixing.

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After my confounding experience with the yabao I needed something soothing and familiar.

I haven’t had a draught of this tea in… ten months. That’s about nine months and three weeks too long.

If you are at all a fan of smoke in tea, try this tea. It is not one of the “meaty” lapsangs. No bacon, no beef jerky, no barbecue, it tastes like smokey tea.

This is one of my favorite teas in the world. I often stray, but I always come back.

I don’t think I’ve ever steeped it this briefly before, and the result is still fantastic.

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This has been on my wishlist forever.


Oh the power of suggestion….guess what I picked for my morning tea?

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Steeps 4, 5 and 6 have gone in much the same way.

I think I must not have used nearly enough buds.

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All my teas arrived today, and I decided to start with the one I have no prior experience to benchmark. There is simply nothing like a yabao other than yabao. I tried to order the late winter variant, but they must be out because the site kept redirecting me to these and these are what I got.

To say this is going to be an exercise in subtly would be a vast understatement.

The buds are quite fat, and the color of lawn thatch when dry. They have almost no aroma that I can detect.

I did a quick rinse to remove dust and to heat all my vessels, I’m using my new double gaiwan technique to do steepings. Watching the buds pop open is a bit creepy and the whole affair reminds me a bit of eating crickets.

The wet buds smell exactly like bai mu dan, which makes perfect sense. They’re both white buds.

1st ~ As long as it took to pour the water in, cover, and pour the water out. The result is almost perfectly clear. But there is flavor, here. I’ll be darned if the toasted marshmallow comment in the write-up isn’t true. There’s also a non-green vegetable here. Maybe a root or tuber. Like ginger but not quite that sharp.

2nd ~ Again, just a few seconds. Still no color. Again, something sweet and biting, like ginger candy, but very soft. Maybe it isn’t a vegetable, maybe it is Autumnal leaf piles. Maybe it is old, wet ones moldering a bit.

This is not a tea for accompanying anything. It requires total concentration to taste anything at all.

3rd ~ A three count between pouring and pouring. Just a bit of a hint of yellow color. Flavor a bit more present, but still very gentle.

The write-up claims you can get 18 infusions, but I don’t know if I can focus that long.

I used 1tsp in a gaiwan which is what the instructions recommend, but I think next time I’ll try more and see if I can’t get things a bit more concentrated.

This is very interesting, but I’m hard-pressed to see it becoming a staple on my shelf.

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I think you can safely read teaspoon as tablespoon. You’ll enjoy it more if you put in what a tsp of tea would normally be… by weight- the tea is so super light and fluffy.

Jim Marks

Yes, that’s the conclusion I reached by the end of the adventure.

I think I will also put off returning to this tea until this phase of gloomy weather we’re having passes. It doesn’t have quite enough oomph for gloomy weather.

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drank Gyokuro Pine Breeze by Lupicia
325 tasting notes

The sipping down continues.

Orders with Upton and Verdant have been placed and are anxiously awaited.

Yesterday afternoon we shared a good six steepings of this tea with the reverend Father Symeon during his visit to perform the annual blessing of our home. It proved the perfect brew to stimulate a prolonged discussion and good fellowship.

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Jim, do you ever post reviews on Upton’s website? I have, and if you want you can view mine. I’m Scott from Ohio.

Jim Marks

No, I don’t think that I have.


I want to order from them but I get overwhelmed when I see all the options. There are a couple I know I want, and I want that tea scale!

Jim Marks

I’ve never had a tea I didn’t like because of poor quality, just matters of taste. They sell great tea. Just go for it.

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drank Gyokuro Pine Breeze by Lupicia
325 tasting notes

I had to “put up” the green pu-erh cake from Central Market to age at least six months, maybe a year. This leaves (no pun intended) me with just a few teas that I am slowly working my way through so that I can justify an order to Upton, Verdant and/or Red Blossom.

So, this means many cups of this gyokuro and another lesser Japanese green that Liz brought back with her from Tokyo.

In having complained about the lackluster nature of this tea in the past, I have been thinking about what I can do to allow it to show me the best it has to offer.

I remembered observing a senchado — Japanese tea ceremony utilizing sencha instead of matcha — and that their steep times were quite short. Since I am currently obsessed with my two gaiwan method of preparation I have been engaging a very short steep time and the result has been interesting.

Early steeps are extremely delicate and are such a pale green they are almost blue. The liqueur is almost sweet. Later steeps take on the more traditional yellow-green with the stronger, more vegetal flavors.

At least it keeps me busy.

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I found a tiny bit of this left over as well, and so I’m in use-up-samples mode before I compile my order of new teas for 2012.

I’m bumping this up a bit having had it on the heels of the Xin Yang Mao Jian. The two are so different that I’m able to appreciate this cup a lot more than the last time I tasted it.

The Xin Yang Mao Jian is delicate and shy. This is big, bold, strong and a bit unrefined (but not in a bad way). I love the Xin Yang Mao Jian in my delicate little gaiwan but I feel like I should be drinking this Chun Mei out of my 16 ounce mug with the Ester Island face on it.

The color is a deep golden and yet the flavor has very little roast this time. This is like an untamed thicket of rioting green foliage.

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I am rarely, if ever, active here. But I do return from time to time to talk about a very special tea I’ve come across.

You can hear the music I compose here:

I have a chapter in this book of popular philosophy

I blog about cooking here https://dungeonsandkitchens.wordpress.com

I blog about composing music and gardening here


Houston, TX



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